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One of the most annoying things for me is the automatic playing of audio when you arrive at a webpage, and I've come across a few examples of this on a couple of publishers' websites lately.

There is a trend over the last year or so for news websites to add video players showing things like Premier League highlights next to articles. This gives users another reason to come to the site, but publishers should be careful not to annoy users with intrusive audio.

I came across an example of this when clicking through to this page (you can see an example of this here) on the Mail website from NewsNow:

Mail

Immediately, a blast of music greeted me, followed by some commentary on the last day of the Second Ashes Test at Lords. Also, as you can see from the screenshot above, the source of the audio isn't immediately obvious.

After scrolling down the page, I find the culprit, which is the ECBtv player:

Mail intrusive audio

I can go to the player and turn the sound off and read the article in peace, but many users, annoyed by the intrusion may well just close the page and go somewhere else instead. 

Virgin Media provides another example of this on its sports section, and you are greeted by a pre-roll ad for coco pops at full volume before the usual Premier League clips:

Virgin Media intrusive audio

A number of other newspapers, including The Telegraph and Times, also have the ECB player on their sites, but both websites start the video with audio turned off, and give users the option to switch the sound on, which is the way to do it.

In a recent survey(pdf), 87% of web users said they found ads that play music or sound frustrating, so publishers looking to increase visitor numbers should take care not to annoy users in this way.

Audio is an intrusion, especially when the user is not expecting it, and most people will not appreciate it, especially if there are in a quiet location, or perhaps listening to music already.

Graham Charlton

Published 30 July, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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